Your Roadmap to KM Success in 2021 and Beyond

This panel will share their advice and experiences for growing and sustaining a KM program in the virtual world. They will touch on a range of topics including engaging with internal clients and successfully driving knowledge initiatives when informal and in-person interactions remain limited. The panel will also look at how managing, mentoring and motivating their teams has changed and what they are doing to ensure their team members are continuing to grow and develop the skills they need to support the evolving KM strategy.

These are my notes from the Strategic Knowledge & Innovation Legal Leaders’ Summit (SKILLS 2021), a private gathering of large law firms. As with all live-blogging, there will be inevitable errors so please excuse them. My editorial comments are noted in brackets.

The pandemic has reinforced the importance of the traditional knowledge management focus on people – their well-being and productivity. January is not too early to think about how to keep your team engaged and energized.

Staying Connected

  • Firms that are email-centric need to find other ways to stay connected in meaningful, human ways.
  • You can’t jump straight into business. You need to start meetings with a moment of social connection.
  • In the early days, we forced everyone on camera. Now we are focusing on doing more screensharing.
  • Pay attention to the latest research on Zoom fatigue.
  • Team members with young children have a great deal of stress to manage — and their stress affects the entire team.

Find Your WHY then stay Positive

  • Your KM team should be very clear about its WHY.
  • This helps you sort your priorities and keep your focus.
  • Don’t read every bit of COVID news. One firm provides regular updates on the good, as well as the concerning, COVID news and suggests that its people focus on those updates and ignore the rest of the information provided by the relentless 24-hour news cycle.
  • Be sure to share the positive news wherever it occurs in the world. One firm shared pictures of new babies born in the firm. Others share good news from other countries.

Managing a Large Team

  • Remote working can lead to a sense of insecurity — especially when people feel untethered from their teammates, from the various practice groups, or from the firm generally.
  • Developing a core competency model helps your KM team members focus on concrete next steps. It gives them a sense of being connected to their own career path.

Stay Connected to the Business

  • Stay visible — attend practice group meetings, stay in touch with individual fee earners.
  • Communicate value — even if there has not been a recent breakthrough in your area, is there a breakthrough in another practice that would be useful to share?

Branding & Marketing

  • Lawyers express interest in KM resources and opportunities but they get distracted when billing work comes in so their interest is not always sustained.
  • One firm does internal marketing by interviewing a single member of the firm who has found a better way to deliver client services and meet client needs. They then send a written update to the entire firm sharing their learning. This provides recognition to the interviewee and sparks the interest of others in the firm.
  • Remember: you have to communicate a message seven times in seven different ways.
  • Taking the time to craft a high-level presentation to the firm regarding your function helps your own team bond and get a better sense of what it does and why it does it.

KM After the Crisis: What’s Next?

  • The biggest mistake we can make is to revert to the three-year plan we were using before the pandemic. So much has changed.
  • People in the firm do not want to go back to the office five days a week. So the KM team needs to think about what hybrid work arrangements look like. How does KM support critical functions such as training and integrating new lawyers?
  • Think and read more broadly about what might happen after the pandemic. For example, what happens when we can move about and socialize freely. Will productivity drop radically?
  • Think about lawyer technological proficiency. Lawyers need to be proud and able to be their own help desk.
  • Boundaries will be an issue: just because you know everyone is online after business hours does not mean you should be touch. People need boundaries so that they can have some personal time.
  • Training will look different going forward. Large-group training sessions are less useful than small-group or one-on-one training.
  • Employers will shift from managing an employee’s work experience to managing an employee’s life experience.

Reimagining the Future

  • Looking beyond the immediate crisis, ensure that you have corporate legitimacy. Pay attention to external training, credentialing, and standards (e.g., new KM ISO standard).
  • Find more ways to exchange knowledge with people outside the firm. The resulting learning will keep you at the cutting edge.

[Photo Credit: Kevin Bhagat]

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